Albert McKenzie VC
1898 - 1918
Albert McKenzie was chosen by his shipmates to be awarded the Victoria Cross following the Raid on Zeebrugge in April 1918 . The medal was presented to him by King George V at Buckingham Palace in the Summer of 1918.
Albert had almost fully recovered from his wounds when he caught flu in the pandemic which killed 1% of the World's population in the period immediately after the Great War.
He died at Chatham Naval Hospital in October 1918 a few days after his 20th Birthday
Alice Street Bermondsey about 1900
Albert was born on 23 October 1898. His family lived at 10 Alice Street, Bermondey just off Tower Bridge Road in London. He was the youngest of ten brothers and sisters.
He attended the near by Webb Street School and by the time he left aged 14 his father had died and his all brothers and sisters had left home.
The Arethusa moored on the Thames
There were few job opportunities in Bermondsey in those days so Albert was lucky to be taken in by the Lord Shaftesbury charity which had purchased HMS Aretusa from the Royal Navy and converted her into a naval training school.
Arethusa was permanently moored on the Thames at Greenhithe near Gravesend. She took in 250 young boys at a time and over the course of 18 months taught them everything they needed to know to become sailors in either the merchant or the Royal Navy.
The battleship Neptune in 1910
On 14th April 1915 Albert (aged 16 years 5 months) joined HMS Neptune as a Boy 1st Class becoming an Ordinary Seaman in April 1916 and an Able Seaman (and Seaman Gunner) in June 1917. Neptune was based in Scapa Flow.
Vindictive before the Raid on Zeebrugge
On 1st March 1918 Albert joined the depot ship HMS Hindustan in Chatham to take part in the training for the Raid on Zeebrugge.
Albert and his mother
As a result of the Raid on Zeebrugge, Albert and seven other men were awarded the Victoria Cross.
Chatham Hospital in 1915
Albert suffered multiple gunshot wounds at Zeebrugge and was admitted to the Seamen's Hospital at Greenwich for treatment. Many people were keen to visit him and shake the hand of a young man who had been awarded the Victoria Cross. But whilst Albert was in hospital the 'Spanish' flu global pandemic started to sweep the world, and the flow of visitors to see him will have increased his expose to the virus. Just a few weeks after becoming infected he died on 3rd November 1918 just eleven days after his 20th birthday.
fundraising at Millwall Football Club - Paul Keefe 2nd from right
In his youth Albert had been a member of the Oxford and Bermondsey Boys Club. In 2010 Paul Keefe a current member of the Club decided that Albert's achievement deserved to be recognised by some sort of memorial.
He enlisted the support of his local MP Simon Hughes and of Admiral Lord West in a fundraising campaign.
The Albert McKenzie Memorial fund was launched in 2010 and led to five years of fundraising activity.
Albert's Memorial Statue on Tower Bridge Road, London
On 23rd October 2015 hundreds of people gathered on Tower Bridge Road for the unveiling of a statue, erected in memory of Albert McKenzie VC and the Raid on Zeebrugge
Letters from the Queen and Prime Minister David Cameron were read out as a statue was unveiled and a 21-gun salute was fired by HMS Belfast moored nearby on the River Thames.
Colin McKenzie being interviewed on Belgian TV in April 2018
The story of Albert McKenzie VC and the Raid on Zeebrugge are mentioned in the news regularly